With the January Window slamming shut after clubs up and down the divisions were trying to bring in new faces attempting to secure their pre season targets, it’s time to evaluate who will achieve what in the next 4 Months.
The Title Challengers:
Arsenal: Gunners fans were clamouring for a new striker in January and failed to get one. Arsene Wenger has decided to keep faith in hit and miss forward Olivier Giroud, traditionally goal shy in the league Lukas Podolski and “world’s best” Niklas Bendtner. A deal for Julian Draxler never came to fruition either which increased fan’s frustrations and a tough February/March period of fixtures could be Arsenal’s downfall. Prediction: 3rd.
Manchester City: The league’s powerhouses at present, Manchester City didn’t sign anyone in January following the decision to not sign Porto pair Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando. The Citizens don’t really needed to strengthen but their one weakness lies in Martin Demichelis, a problem Mangala would have solved. Thankfully for them though, City have finally sorted out that once troublesome away form and look unstoppable currently. Monday’s clash with Chelsea looks a title decider already and they’re at fortress Etihad. 13 games, 13 wins. Prediction: 1st.
Chelsea: The return of the special one hasn’t led to a league title as plain sailing as many thought and the Blues are currently as low as 3rd in the league behind leaders Arsenal and Manchester City. The reluctance of Jose Mourinho to sign a striker might prove costly but nevertheless Chelsea did still have a positive January window. Mohammed Salah came in as Juan Mata’s replacement, Nemanja Matic returned to the club and highly rated powerful centre back Kurt Zouma was also brought in, he was loaned back to St.Ettiene but will be in Chelsea blue next season. If Chelsea lose away to Manchester City the title may already be gone but 3 points at the Etihad and things get interesting. Prediction: 2nd.
The race for 4th:
Liverpool: The Liverpudlians had a disaster of a transfer window, first losing out on Salah who opted for Chelsea and then missing out on Yevhen Konoplyanka on deadline day. Ironically though, Liverpool need to work on their defence more than their midfield or attack which Kolo Toure’s horrific error against West Brom highlighted. The Reds are lucky to still have a player of Luis Suarez’s calibre on their books but since they do they are in good stead to return to the coveted top four spots, his good working relationship with Daniel Sturridge to create the new “SAS” is working wonders. Prediction: 4th
Everton: Well known to be low on funds, Everton are not traditional big spenders in transfer windows however they did attract three new players to Goodison last month. Aiden McGeady from Spartak Moscow and giant Lacina Traore on loan from Monaco as well as young goalkeeper Jindřich Staněk from Sparta Prague. The Toffees have a strong squad, quite literally in the shape of Romelu Lukaku and new man Traore but they lack a Suarez type figure to lift them into top 4 reckoning. Prediction: 5th
Tottenham: No new faces at Tottenham during January could be more worrying than what meets the eye. Despite being given a deal to the end of next season Tim Sherwood has appeared reluctant to begin to construct the team into his own image. Although this would be more effective in the Summer, January would be a good starting point and it would also prove useful to bring players in to get them used to the league, something which the players brought in last Summer are struggling with. This Tottenham team also don’t look good enough for the top 4 as proved by being demolished 1-5 at home by Man City, 6-0 away to the same club, 0-5 at home to Liverpool and 0-3 earlier on in the season against West Ham so Sherwood’s reluctance to bring in new faces is a strange one. Prediction: 7th
Manchester United: David Moyes was always going to have a tough job taking over from the legend that is Sir Alex Ferguson with many predicting the club would lose its premier league crown but no-one expected this. Old Trafford has lost all its fear factor and it would appear sides now relish a trip to the red half of Manchester. Juan Mata is a promising signing by Moyes however it does have its down sides. £37 million seems a bit steep for someone who couldn’t get into a top 4 side this season and a player who doesn’t play regularly for his country. In fairness to Mata though he did win Chelsea’s player of the year award twice in a row and is Spanish however one signing isn’t enough for this side and a big shuffle is needed in the Summer. Prediction: 6th
Aston Villa: Only the one signing this window and it wasn’t a headline grabber, Grant Holt on loan from Wigan. Holt had only managed 2 goals in the Championship this season. Villa aren’t a side that needs much improvement regarding their season expectations though with their young side beginning to mature, none more so than Fabian Delph, even Christian Benteke having a poor season isn’t dampening the mood at Villa Park. Prediction: Safe.
Stoke City: Mark Hughes’ job when appointed Stoke Manager this season was to change the playing style, from Tony Pulis’ “ugly” football to a more attractive brand. Hughes has had moderate success with the new system, it tends to work against the bigger sides, memorable home wins over Chelsea and Manchester United, and home draws with City and Everton have been exceptional results but this doesn’t stretch to the teams around them. Losses have come against the likes of Sunderland, Crystal Palace and only managing home draws against Hull and Cardiff isn’t good enough. Prediction: Relegation.
Swansea City: Questionable signings by Swansea won’t change them much, new faces include David N’Gog from Bolton (3 goals in 17 in the Championship this season), Adam King from Hearts and Jay Fulton from Falkirk. Respectable mid table again for the Swans, the big test comes next season when the expected departure of Michael Laudrup happens, will their next manager make the Swans soar the next level or will they sink back down to the Championship? Prediction: Safe.
Hull City: Tipped by many to go straight back down, Hull City are surprising a few and this is mainly due to their home form. Their problem though is that they’re not scoring enough goals and Steve Bruce has addressed this problem by signing Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long. Hull have been on a bad run of form though and need to pick this up quickly otherwise they’ll be in trouble. Prediction: Relegation.
Sunderland: Under old boss Paolo Di Canio, Sunderland looked down already but they have a new lease of life under Gus Poyet. The Black Cats have booked themselves a trip to Wembley after defeating Man United in the Capital One Cup and have won 6 of their 16 games under the Uruguayan, two of those against fierce rivals Newcastle and momentum is high. New signings Oscar Ustari, Santiago Vergini, Ignacio Scocco and Liam Bridcutt can only help them. Prediction: Safe.
Norwich City: A team that has always gone about its business quietly since they returned to the premier league in 2011, mid table looks a real possibility again this season. Jonas Gutierrez and Joseph Yobo on loan are useful short term acquisitions who bring in lots of premiership experience and will help the Canaries cement their place in the division for next season. Prediction: Safe.
West Brom: Perennial “yo-yo” club West Brom look to have finally stabilised themselves in the premier league, new manager Pepe Mel was unlucky to lose his first game in charge away to Villa but a home draw against Liverpool will raise spirits. Shane Long left in January but this will give strikers like Matej Vydra the chance to shine after a great season in the Championship last year. No signings were made by Mel in January but the next chapter at the Hawthorns begins in the summer. Prediction: Safe.
Crystal Palace: Much like Sunderland, Palace looked relegated before changing their manager but now look like a completely different team. Tony Pulis has arrived at Selhurst Park and stuck to his system that worked so well at Stoke and it’s efficient in London too. Marouane Chamakh looks a new man and Palace are on the up. 4 deadline day signings will boost Palace, Jason Puncheon on a permanent deal, Wayne Hennessey, Joe Ledley and Scott Dann are the new men. Pulis will be proud of the new players and the form his team are in, Stoke may have made a huge mistake. Prediction: Safe.
West Ham: Saturday’s 2-0 win over Swansea came as one hell of a relief for “Big” Sam Alladyce who needs wins and fast, the previous result, a 0-0 draw away to Chelsea was credible but undeserved but these two results show West Ham aren’t dead yet. January saw West Ham add some Italian flavour to their side with loan deals for Antonio Nocerino and Marco Borriello, relative coups for the Hammers, Borriello will be most useful due to West Ham’s lack of strikers, Andy Carroll is a good player but can’t keep the club up on his own, especially due to his recent return from a long injury. Despite this though, West Ham should have enough about them to stay up. Prediction: Safe.
Cardiff: The acromonious departure of manager Malky Mackay outraged many of the Cardiff support but they were soon in good spirits again when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was hired as his replacement. The Norwegian acted quickly in the transfer market strengthening his side with no less than seven new faces arriving at the Cardiff City stadium. The most notable of these were Fabio and Wilfried Zaha from Man United, Fabio on a permanent and Zaha on loan. If Zaha can impress in Wales during his loan period he may have an outside chance of making the squad to Brazil which will encourage “OGS”. Kenwyne Jones was another signing who came from Stoke in a swap deal with Odemwingie going the other way and scored in his debut in a 2-1 win over Norwich which was OGS’ first league win as manager. He’ll be hoping more are coming soon. Prediction: Safe.
Fulham: 2 wins from 15 have left Fulham in a slump. Rene Muelensteen has a big job on his hands if the Cottagers are going to stay up, all hopes may be pinned on new £11 million man Konstantinos Mitroglou who has 23 goals in 26 games for club and country this season. If he can settle quickly Fulham might be ok, if he doesn’t, they’re in trouble. Prediction: Relegation.
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*Disclaimer: If Chelsea beat Manchester City tonight I think they will win the league*